Bigger isn’t always safer.
Crash tests have evolved dramatically over the years, with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety implementing drive-side small overlap crashes in 2012. These tested what would happen if a vehicle started to veer into oncoming traffic and hit another vehicle. While automakers worked to reinforce projections for the driver’s side for the test, IIHS wanted to see how well passengers are protected, introducing passenger side small overlap crash testing last year. The recent batch of tests show some deficiencies with specific models – notably the 2018 Ford Explorer and 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee, both of which earned a “Poor” IIHS rating for the passenger-side small overlap crash.
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The Explorer earned its “Poor” rating because the crash compromised the vehicle’s structure, with serious amounts of intrusion into the cabin – 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper hinge pillar and dashboard. Even the door sill pushed six inches toward the passenger dummy. Measurements from the dummy showed a high likelihood of right hip and lower left leg injuries occurring in a real-world crash. Ford says its new Explorer will have improved small overlap protection on both sides, according to IIHS.
Compare those structural intrusion numbers to the 2019 Kia Sorento, which not only earned a “Good” rating – the highest rating available – but was also awarded the Institute’s highest award, Top Safety Pick+. Maximum intrusion in the 2019 Sorento was just four inches on the right side of the toepan.
The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee earned its “Poor” rating with 10 inches of intrusion at the lower door hinge. While that’s alarming, what shocked IIHS more was the dummy’s head hitting the dashboard hard through the airbag. However, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, the dummy’s head moved outside the vehicle when it rebounded off the dash. Measurements from the dummy indicated right leg injuries and a head injury would be possible.
The 2018 GMC Acadia and Volkswagen Atlas also earned “Good” ratings. The Acadia had just two inches of intrusion on the right side of the toepan; however, the passenger dummy’s head slid off the right side of the front airbag, which left it vulnerable to contacting the vehicle’s hard structure. The 2018 Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, and Honda Pilot all received “Acceptable” ratings.
Source: Insurance Institute of Highway Safety